Volvo to gather real-time data from customer cars to refine automated systems

Volvo together with its in-house self-driving technology arm Zenseact announced Wednesday that owners of its next-generation vehicles will be able to supply real-time data gathered from sensors to help in the development of electronic driver-assist features, including future fully self-driving systems. Volvo owners will be able to choose whether this data is collected, and much of it will be kept anonymous.

The data will be stored in a data center with some 225 million gigabytes of capacity, and be used by artificial intelligence systems that can quickly process it all. The AI looks for patterns in the data and then predicts outcomes that driver-assist and self-driving systems rely on to make actions. As more and more data is gathered, the systems become more refined. It’s a technique Tesla has largely pioneered among major automakers, and it’s also being adopted by Volkswagen Group.

“Safety is part of our heritage and the backbone of our company, but software is a crucial part of our modern-day DNA,” Mats Moberg, head of R&D at Volvo, said in a statement. “So while we continue to build on the 50-year expertise of the industry-leading Volvo Cars Accident Research Team, we can now also leverage AI as a new, virtual accident research team.”

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Volvo said using customer-gathered data will help speed up the development of electronic driver-assist and fully self-driving systems. For example, data will be coming in from millions of miles driven all over the globe. Volvo would then be able to design its driver-assist and self-driving systems for specific geographic locations much quicker than with a limited number of prototypes going out all over the globe.

Volvo believes its driver-assist tech will get smarter over time with the additional data, and the improved versions can be sent out to vehicles via over-the-air software updates. Systems will gradually become more capable, making them able to intervene in more situations, according to Volvo.

The quality of the data is also expected to take a major leap with the arrival of a redesigned Volvo XC90 next year, as the new crossover will be the first Volvo to be equipped with a lidar sensor from Luminar. Even though fully self-driving might not be available for some years, Volvo said the lidar sensor will help improve existing safety systems like collision warning and automatic emergency braking. Because of this, Volvo has hinted that it will make lidar standard on all of its future models, including entry-level models.

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